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Stowaways a risk

HAMISH MACLEAN
Last updated 05:00 18/10/2012
Kiwi
Bird life: Terry Goodall dressed as a kiwi and Ali Goodall, the kukupa, head on out to the movies in Kerikeri hoping to catch Project Island Song’s new public awareness campaign video ‘Stop, Check and Go’.

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We need help to keep our islands pest free.

That's the key message of Project Island Song's new public awareness campaign.

Co-ordinator Richard Robbins says the campaign is new but the message is an old one.

But there is still work to be done.

"I think a lot of people don't realise that they are a risk," he says.

"It's about stowaways."

Argentine ants are a problem, for example, he says.

They get into picnickers' food and catch a ride out to the islands.

They could set up a colony on an island and create a big problem.

Mice too - they can squeeze through a hole the size of a 10 cent piece and can become a huge problem. Rodents, if they are pregnant, can set pest-free efforts way back.

"The last incursion was through camping equipment and people didn't realise they had a mouse on board," he says.

Project Island Song is entering its crucial second phase of work and its campaign to maintain the islands' pest-free status has begun.

Its awareness message features before every film at Cathay Cinemas.

"It's ‘stop, check and go', we want people to go and enjoy themselves," Mr Robbins says.

"Enjoy the bay, enjoy the islands."

Project Island Song works on Motuarohia, Moturua, Motukiekie, Poroporo, Urupukapuka, Waewaetorea and Okahu, as well as a number of rockstacks and islets across the eastern Bay of Islands.

Volunteers have removed pests from these areas and are now working on reintroducing appropriate native species, not simply to create an ecological sanctuary, but to improve the experience of visitors to the islands.

The project is a partnership between several stakeholders, and in September this year the group conducted its first bird translocation on to pest-free islands.

Pateke were taken off during the baiting stage of a pest removal plan and returned later.

North island robins are due to be released in the near future to aimed at increase existing numbers.

And there are a number in pre-consultation phases.

Mr Robbins says there is generally hope for more birds.

Entering the second phase of work, where the islands are returned to their original richness, is an exciting time, but it will take commitment from the community.

"It's getting there slowly," Mr Robbins says.

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